SC refuses to intrude with HC order on harassment inquiry in opposition to judicial officer

New Delhi, October 18

The Supreme Court has refused to interfere with the Uttarakhand High Court’s interim order dismissing a senior judicial officer’s plea for changing the inquiry officer, who was examining charges of sexual harassment against him, over alleged bias.

A bench of justices L Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta and Ajay Rastogi rejected the plea of the additional district judge, saying that he can raise the ground of bias even after the inquiry against him gets over.

“We are not inclined to interfere with the order passed by the high court. The Special Leave Petition is, accordingly, dismissed. Pending application(s), if any, stands disposed of accordingly.

“However, the high court is requested to finally dispose of the writ petition when the matter is listed on October 31, along with amendment application,” the bench said in its recent order.

Senior advocate P S Patwalia, who appeared for the petitioner along with advocate Sachin Sharma, argued that his client has an outstanding record and these allegations were levelled to embarrass him.

He claimed that a day after his plea for a change of inquiry officer was taken up for hearing by the high court, the inquiry officer had closed the defence and started proceedings ex-parte.

The bench said that it will not interfere with the inquiry but can ask the high court to decide on the plea and pass the order.

“If you have a good case on bias, you will succeed. You can argue on the point of bias, even after the inquiry gets over”, the bench said.

The additional district judge in his plea has contended that the inquiry officer, who is a sitting judge of the high court, is also a member of the committee that had recommended disciplinary inquiry against him, and any exercise so conducted cannot be said to be fair.

He claimed that the high court on October 8, without considering the facts and circumstances of the case, by a non-speaking order gave a prima facie finding that it was too late for making the allegation of bias against the presiding officer and had rejected the stay application.

“That it is a gross case of violation of the principle of natural justice wherein the petitioner, who is a member of Higher Judicial Service, imparted justice without any spot on his career for the last 16 years, having outstanding ACR throughout, is now himself rattling for the justice,” his plea said.

The plea sought a stay on the order of the high court as well as on the disciplinary proceedings against the petitioner.

The plea said that in 2017, the petitioner was transferred from the post of registrar of the Uttarakhand High Court and was posted as First Additional District Judge and Session Judge, Haridwar.

It said on February 1, 2018, the complainant was directed to join/attach with the officer of the petitioner as a contractual employee and just after working for two days on February 1 and 2, he was directed to join at some other place.

To the shock and surprise of the petitioner,  he was informed after being suspended and charge-sheeted that the contractual employee had made a “false and frivolous complaint, dated March 19, 2018, to the district Judge Haridwar, alleging therein that the petitioner had tried to take undue advantage and sexually harassed him on February 1 and 2”.

The plea contended that “this bare fact itself shows that complainant was planted by someone having grudges against the petitioner to defame/disable him from performing his official duties”.

The petition claimed that the complainant and his mother, in their cross-examination conducted before the Inquiry Officer, had admitted that they filed the complaint dated March 19, 2018 only because they were promised that the complainant’s job will be regularized.

“Hence, the entire disciplinary proceeding is nothing but a gross abuse of process of law,” it said, adding that on September 21, the inquiry officer had even refused to allow the complainant to withdraw his complaint.

The plea also said that the inquiry officer had dismissed the recusal application dated September 21 filed by the petitioner. — PTI

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